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Lucky Charm - A Cinderella Reverse Fairytale

Princess Charmaine is getting married. She should be happy right?
The kingdom is in turmoil after the death of the king, and it’s up to Princess Charmaine to set things right. With her coronation looming and an upcoming wedding to sort out, she barely has time to worry about the people of magic that so desperately need her. 
Still on the run from the police and no longer wanted in the kingdom he once loved, Cynder is forced to find another way to live, but when a chance encounter puts him back in touch with the love he lost, he knows he must do everything in her power to save her.
Lucky Charm is the second book in the Charm series, a reverse fairytale based on Cinderella by USA Today bestselling author J.A.Armitage. Take everything you think you know about fairytales and turn it on its head

Chapter one

Chapter one – The Coronation

 

I felt the weight of the royal crown bearing down as the bishop placed it firmly on my head to rapturous applause and the bright lights of the media. Six months since my father had died and I was now the official Queen of Silverwood.

The national anthem played as cameras flashed, blinding me with their brightness. My only job was to stay still and look regal as the massive congregation lifted their voices in song around me. Long live the queen!

When the music had stopped and the cheering had died down, Luca came bounding over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He held my hand as I stood, trying not to fall over with the weight of the bejeweled monstrosity on my head. He looked resplendent in his immaculate royal attire decked in golden trim and epaulets. I, on the other hand, looked like a royal golden meringue with the biggest dress Xavi had ever dared to dress me in. Colored white with a golden lace overlay that nipped in at the waist; it billowed out at the skirts. Over the top, I wore a golden velvet cape edged in ermine that trailed along the floor behind me. Needless to say, I hated it and couldn’t wait to get home and into a pair of comfortable pants.

I walked down the aisle of the huge cathedral, marveling at the vaulted ceiling so far above me, which was the reason for the amazing acoustics of the singing people.  I walked arm in arm with Luca who was doing his best to keep me upright and not trip over my voluminous dress himself. I tried not to think about the next time we’d be making this particular journey. In five months time, we’d be taking the same walk, only then, it would be on our wedding day as husband and wife.

Despite the all-time low ratings of popularity for the monarchy, a surprisingly large number of people had turned out for the coronation. The enormous gothic cathedral was packed with the kingdom’s elite filling all the pews, not to mention various celebrities and royals from other lands, and the roads outside of the cathedral were crowded with people. I gave Elise a quick smile as I passed, and she smiled back. She looked more radiant than ever, probably due to her honeymoon glow. Leo had proposed to her at Christmas, and with mother’s blessing, they’d had a discrete family wedding in the palace on New Year’s Day. The only people they’d invited were family and Daniel and Dean. I envied them for the intimacy of it. My wedding plans were shaping up to be a complete nightmare of epic proportions, thanks to my mother, Jenny, and Xavi collaborating. In my mother’s mind, I needed a wedding even more spectacular than the last one to make people forget what had happened at it. As many people had died including the groom and the king, I thought having a bigger wedding cake and better-dressed bridesmaids probably wasn’t going to cut it, but I kept my mouth shut and let her plan it her way. It was easier than arguing.

I tried to get my wedding out of my mind and concentrate on the matter at hand, putting one foot in front of the other without losing my crown or tripping over the long skirt I was wearing. As everything was being televised and shown to tens of thousands of people throughout the kingdom, I knew any misstep would result in more damaging press for our family, and that was the last thing I needed on my first day as the monarch. 

Security was at an all-time high to prevent the same disaster as the one at the palace six months ago, and as I left the cathedral, I was flanked by ten guards specially brought in from the Silverwood Army. They led me through the snow to the awaiting golden carriage, but it was Luca that helped me through the door with my large skirt.

Thousands of people screamed and cheered as we were taken through the crowd-lined streets back to the palace. I waved and smiled as I was expected to do and tried not to look as uncomfortable as I felt. I’d been preparing for this ever since the moment my mother uttered the words, “Your father is dead” but I still wasn’t ready for the enormity of it. I’d planned how I wanted to rule the country and spent night after night unable to sleep, fretting about how I could turn Silverwood around, especially with the Magi situation. What I hadn’t practiced was holding a crown on my head and keeping a smile on my face. Jenny had warned me that I needed to, but for some stupid reason, I’d put the health of the country over the importance of wearing the correct outfit and shoes for the coronation. As it was, my feet and my head were warring for most painful part, with my stomach coming up third, nipped in as it was by a corset that was so tight, I doubt I’d be able to eat anything for fear of it snapping open.

I’d protested, of course, when Xavi had asked me to wear it, but as it was the only way I could fit into the tiny waisted dress, I had no choice. I made a mental note to go to wedding dress fittings instead of eschewing them in favor of meetings with Silverwood’s leaders as I had with my coronation dress fittings.

“How are you feeling your majesty?” whispered Luca in my ear.

I turned away from the crowds for a second to look into his handsome face. “Exhausted,” I replied honestly. “You?”

“I’m feeling like the luckiest man in the world right now. I cannot believe I’m going to be marrying you in a few months. You look every inch the queen, and if it wasn’t for the eyes of every person of Silverwood currently watching us, I’d be kissing you right now.”

I smiled. I wanted to kiss him too, but I couldn’t be seen kissing him in public before our wedding day. It just wasn’t the done thing for a lady of society, let alone the new queen. At least that’s what Jenny had told me. I looked up to Jenny for help at every turn as she knew every law and rule of Silverwood as long as it pertained to etiquette. Instead of sharing a kiss, I reached out for his hand and squeezed it.

We lapsed into an easy silence. I felt comfortable in his presence and couldn’t think of anyone I’d prefer to be with on the day of my coronation.

There is one other

The voice in my head piped up. I couldn’t think of Cynder. Not now. I’d not seen him in over six months, and as much as I hated to admit it, he was a part of my past that had no place in my future. I ignored the little voice and, instead, concentrated on my new role as monarch.

It was a role for which I’d had so little training, and I felt wholly unprepared. I’d only found out I was going to rule Silverwood when my elder sister, Grace, died, and my father’s death unexpectedly followed soon after. I’d spent the five months prior to my father’s death learning how to eat soup without spilling and picking out a man to marry. It all seemed so frivolous now. I should have been learning more about my kingdom. In the months that had passed since I learned of my father’s death, I’d spent as much time away from the spotlight as possible, trying to figure out how to rule a land. But it felt like too little, too late. Luca had been as helpful as possible, and so had Leo, who had just the head for business I needed. I’d not hesitated at hiring him as my chief advisor, a role into which he’d thrown himself wholeheartedly. And still, even with the help of Luca and Leo and all the other people I’d surrounded myself with, the thought of unifying a separated land was a task that seemed so daunting that wearing painfully high shoes paled in comparison.

“My father made it look so easy,” I said, sighing.

“Your father was a tyrant and a murderer,” Luca reminded me.

“Yes, but the people loved him. They hate me.”

“They hate all royalty because of what happened. You’ve told the people the full story. You can’t make them believe it.”

It was the truth. As soon as I found out that my father had died, I’d gone to the press to tell them the truth about the riots. I’d also gotten Cynder cleared of all charges. What I hadn’t expected was for the people not to believe me. No one wanted to hear the truth that it was the fault of my father and Xavier when it was convenient to go on blaming the Magi.

“Why does no one believe it?” I asked Luca for the thousandth time.

Luca took my other hand in his. “Because for a long time, people treated the Magi like dirt, fueled by the belief that they were to blame for all of Silverwood’s problems. No one wants to be the bad guy, and so it’s easier to believe a lie than to face up to what they have done.”

I knew he was right, but it was of little consolation. I’d naively thought that I could tell the truth about my father and invite the Magi back and everyone in Silverwood would be happy. I soon found out that anti-magi feelings ran much deeper than I had expected. My father’s legacy of hate had lived on even if he hadn’t.  

I turned back to the window and plastered on my fake smile again. There were so many people out there, and yet, nothing about it seemed real.

I looked at the crowds as the six white horses pulled the carriage through the heavily guarded gates of the palace. Even now, six months after the riot, I could still see a number of people demonstrating against the Magi. Today was not a special occasion for them. It was just another excuse to bring their placards and spew their vitriolic bile.  They had been there all winter. Not even the harsh weather conditions we’d experienced had put them off. When the Magi themselves had demonstrated last year about their appalling treatment, the police had used brute force to move them. These guys were left alone. The police didn’t do a thing. It was something I was going to change as soon as I got the chance.

The carriage came to a halt at the palace doors, and two footmen opened the door and helped me out. The palace itself looked better than ever after all the restorations that had been done on it, and the only reminder of the disaster that had happened all those months back was the lingering smell of wet paint. Paint that had been used to cover up the blood stains and new plaster filling the bullet holes in the walls. 

“I’m going to get changed,” I said as Luca and I entered the main hall. The dress was weighing me down, and I couldn’t wait to get out of it.

“Do you need any help?” Luca replied, eyeing up the multitude of buttons.

“They are just for decoration,” I smiled. “I think I’ll be ok. Why don’t you get changed too?”

Luca nodded, but I could see he was put out. Royal protocol demanded that we not be too intimate until our wedding night, so apart from the occasional stolen kiss, we’d not had much in the way of romance. The long wait until we were married was difficult for him, but apart from kissing him when no one was looking, there wasn’t much I could do about it. He was living full-time in one of the guest houses on the grounds. Of the four, his was the only one occupied now that Leo had moved into the main palace.

I watched him leave before running upstairs to my room. Xavi had laid out a simple, but elegant, dress for me to wear for the rest of the day. I heaved a sigh of relief as I took the heavy crown from my head and eased myself out of the hefty gown and crushing corset. I lay down on the bed in my underwear, reluctant to get changed and go out to face the next part of the day—meetings with the press followed by a huge banquet of celebration.

I stood up and made my way over to the window as I had many times. Peeking through a crack in the curtains, I looked out over the snowy white grounds to the apartment that had once been occupied by Cynder. I’d spent so many fruitless hours gazing at the window, hoping that I’d see the light on or any other sign of life in there.

 Not that I needed any reminders of Cynder. He pervaded my every thought, and at night, he filled my dreams. I’d been naive when I thought agreeing to marry Luca would help me forget. Nothing helped me forget, but in truth, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. He was still out there somewhere. Still on the run, despite no longer being a wanted criminal. I’d not seen him in over six months. I told myself for the umpteenth time that it was for the best, and yet, it was harder to believe than it was to crush myself into a corset.

The protesters were at the back gate too. I could just about see them through the iron bars. It wasn’t enough that they stood at the front gates of the palace every day; they had to completely surround the outer walls to drive their point home. I pulled out the telescope that had been sitting in my room for the past few months and angled it towards the gates. The signs they held were getting worse. As I watched, one managed to scale the wall. The guards were on him before I had a chance to worry, but the banner he was carrying gave me a jolt of fear. On it were three letters and a death threat.

MDS Forever

Death to the Monarchy

It looked like it wasn’t just the Magi they were after; they wanted to kill me too!

I shook my head and tried to collect my thoughts. I’d never heard of the MDS before today, but it looked like whoever they were, they weren’t my biggest fan.

Taking a deep breath, I turned and stepped out of my room, ready to take up my duty as the new queen of Silverwood.

 

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